Preparing to move to the field felt a bit like pregnancy and childbirth to me, especially in comparison to the birth of my oldest child. I realized a little too late that you can read all the books, engage in training and forms of preparation but there are aspects you are not equipped for until you go through them.
When I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn, there was an initial excitement that took place with the confirmation of what was happening inside. But then all the other emotions were stirred up, some not as positive as others.
I lost two babies in early miscarriages before my daughter. So even though I was so thankful for the positive pregnancy test, I was gripped with overwhelming fear and disbelief. I didn’t want to go through another heartbreak, and it almost wasn’t worth the risk. That fear lingered throughout the pregnancy and even afterwards. It was fear of the unknown, lack of trust in God, and a need to know every detail.
I watched documentaries, talked to others, downloaded all the apps and prayed specific prayers. But nothing could have prepared me for the birth that didn’t go according to my plan (11 days over and still had to be kicked out), the sleepless nights after (I never knew such a thing existed) and the hormone-infused emotions of those first few weeks.
But when I had my second child, things were a lot different. Oh, don’t get me wrong. A lot of the same circumstances took place with my son’s birth but I was different. The experience with my first prepared my mindset. I went into the pregnancy and birth with more realistic expectations and honestly, open arms. I relinquished my grip on control and determined to lean into the curves and changes with a more relaxed perspective.
I’ve often told others that I would pay money to have the mindset I did with my second during the birth of my first, because it made all the difference. I felt less stressed and overwhelmed but also more available for the Lord to do inner work in me during that time.
When we prepared to move to Iceland, we were in a unique position. Our assignment was to the country of my husband’s birth, but with a clear call to love and minister. This mandate was exciting but came with all the same feelings of the positive pregnancy test in my hand. How in the world would we do this? How did we need to prepare?
We didn’t go through a sending organization but under the covering of our home church. So, our training was unconventional and organic, consisting of books about past cross-cultural workers, learning from the experiences of other leaders and leaning in to the insight of those we trusted.
So many details were not laid out before us, so we had to engage in what we thought would equip us well for the journey. I soon realized that nothing could prepare us completely because every journey is different. But what I desperately needed, just like with my childbirth, was mental preparation.
One of the best decisions we made that helped with this was a two-week cross-cultural intensive at a church on the West coast. My husband went a week without me so I could attend the kindergarten graduation of our oldest. In the one week there, I gleaned incredible information that not only equipped me in practical ways but spoke to some of my inner struggles. We discussed stress, kids and being third culture, safety, prioritizing family, spiritual warfare, budgeting, the value of host culture. I especially loved the emphasis on not labeling yourself as a failure if things shift or if you have to leave the field earlier than expected.
That brought such freedom to me, even though we hadn’t left for Iceland yet. It alleviated the mental pressure I didn’t realize I carried. I didn’t have every detail laid out or every financial need met yet. I didn’t move with a deep understanding of the Icelandic language or a clear sense of what my role would be, although these components are all important.
But my mindset was different, my hands were wide open. God showed me repeatedly how important it was for me to relinquish control and to trust Him. That type of preparation was vital for me, providing the hooks to hang all the other parts that continued to unfold in our journey and continue to do so now.
This is why what is offered through Velvet Ashes is so important to those of us going to, involved in, or returning from the field. This community and a few others helped fill in the gaps for me. When I struggled in certain areas there were women sharing their transparent stories, giving voice to what I didn’t quite know how to define. They helped bring clarity to my perspective so I could face each day overseas more confident, and less alone.
Is there a certain perspective that you have now that you wish you had before you moved? How can you encourage someone else with that potential “gap”?